The Trail Blazers spent the days leading up to the 2022 trade deadline surgically removing Neil Olshey’s fingerprints from the roster. With Damian Lillard on the mend and Portland mired in the bottom of the West, new general manager Joe Cronin drafted most of the high-priced supporting cast Olshey had acquired with Corleone-level ruthlessness: first he sent Robert Covington and Norm Powell to the Clippers, and then trading CJ McCollum to the Pelicans. The returns were modest at best: a couple of young players and a couple of picks. But he provided Cronin with something of a blank canvas to chart the remaining years of Lillard’s prime.
However, Cronin’s first punch looks familiar enough for one made by his predecessor: Just over 24 hours before Thursday’s NBA draft, Cronin agreed to trade the 2025 first-round pick (via Milwaukee) acquired in McCollum’s deal to the Pistons for Jerami Grant. , a young veteran who fills a void but can’t change the big picture in Portland, no matter who owns the team.
Grant, 28, is the kind of defensive-minded, do-it-all forward that previous versions of the Blazers desperately needed. Two offseasons ago, Olshey shelled out two first-round picks for Covington in hopes of filling that exact hole. But as any blogger will tell you, repeatedly, without even asking, Covington is more of a team defender than a stopper you can throw to the top wings of the league. Grant’s resume is more authentic in that regard: In his last postseason with the Nuggets, in the bubble, his most frequent covers were Kawhi Leonard, Donovan Mitchell and LeBron James. The Nuggets reportedly matched the three-year, $60 million surprise he received from Detroit in the 2020 offseason simply to maintain that defensive versatility inside. And while Grant’s attempt to expand his offensive game with the Pistons produced only superficial results (he nearly doubled his scoring and chances average, but did so with average efficiency for bad teams), he’s a much more versatile offensive option than Covington. . While Covington often resigns himself to the corner waiting for catch-and-shoot opportunities, Grant can do just that and add some juice to the Blazers’ offense.
The questions, however, are two:
1. Are those upgrades worth it? An additional $112 million over four yearsThe most the Blazers can (and probably will have to) offer Grant in an extension six months after the trade’s completion? Probably not, in a vacuum, but big wing defenders are becoming just as hard to find as big wings, and if Grant can help give Portland even a credible defense, after three straight years in the bottom five, Lillard has shown that he can push this team far.
2. Is a Portland team with Grant appreciably better than the version Cronin traded six months ago? That’s a bit more complicated.
As it stands, this is Portland’s core:
So Lillard, a smallish scoring shooting guard, a quality shooting guard misconstrued as a small forward and defensive-minded forward? It looks quite familiar! The Blazers have more financial flexibility than they did under the previous administration ($44 million below the luxury tax, for ESPN’s Bobby Marks), but the Anferee Simons deal in restricted free agency, as well as a possible new deal for Jusuf Nurkic (or a replacement), could affect that pretty quickly.
The difference will likely come from the grand prize of Cronin’s flurry of moves in February: world no. 7, which the Blazers earned by mounting a Who He Play For bonanza through the end of the regular season. However, there are no easy solutions there either.
No rookie will provide much positive value next season, least of all a 19-year-old who didn’t play a single game in his first year like Shaedon Sharpe, the current 7-in-all pick. the ringer mock draft. And it would be hard to ask Dame, heading into his 32-year-old season, to bide his time and see the big picture, or worse, buy his cooperation with an extension that could pay the 6-foot-2 guard a whopping $55. millions. at age 36; It’s easier for Steph Curry to trust the institution when the cavalry includes two future Hall of Famers, not a micro McCollum.
It may make more sense for the Blazers to keep trading and trade no. 7 for another young veteran. Yahoo’s Chris Haynes reported Wednesday that Portland is chasing Toronto’s OG Anunoby, another athletic, defensive-minded big end with room to grow. But even Anunoby, or a player of similar age and ability, probably won’t put Portland in the top tier in a West that looks loaded again next season, with the likes of Kawhi, Jamal Murray and Zion Williamson expected to beef up. quality teams that didn’t even make it past the second round.
The Grant trade looks like a better value than some of the moves made towards the end of the Olshey era. But without a follow-up move with even more enthusiasm, he may also have forged a path that will ultimately lead the Blazers to similar results.